Subject: Large bug
Location: Mallorca, Spain
March 12, 2013 10:37 am
I saw this bug a few years ago in Mallorca. Being a complete novice, I have no idea what it is. It behaved sort of like a humming bird. Please help me out.
This is really a nice action photo of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum. According to the Sphingidae of the Western Palaearctic: “Diurnal. In behaviour, this moth is exceptional amongst European Sphingidae: whilst preferring to fly in bright sunlight, it will also take wing at dawn, at dusk or at night; in rain, or on cool, dull days. Very hot weather tends to induce a state of torpidity in many, with activity then confined to the relative cool of the morning and late afternoon. Herrera (1992) found maximum activity occurring between 18.00 and 20.00 hours in southern Spain. Whatever the flight-time, this species is very strongly attracted to flowers yielding plentiful supplies of nectar, such as Jasminum, Buddleja, Nicotiana, Tulipa, Primula, Viola, Syringa, Verbena, Echium, Phlox and Stachys, hovering in front of and repeatedly probing each bloom before darting rapidly to the next. A great wanderer, being present right across Europe from the alpine tree-line to city centres, wherever nectar flowers may be found. Its powers of flight are amazing, and have been studied in detail by Heinig (1987). Apparently, this species also has a fine memory, as individuals return to the same flower-beds every day at about the same time (Pittaway, 1993). (See also Heinig (1981a, 1984).)
When not feeding, pairs in courtship can be seen dashing up and down around steep cliffs, buildings, or over selected stretches of open ground. Pairs in copula can occasionally be found in such locations, although they seldom stay together for more than an hour. Whilst in copula, unlike other hawkmoths, this species is still capable of flight in a manner similar to butterflies. After a further period of feeding, gravid females search for patches of Galium growing in sunny locations. While hovering, each patch is carefully examined, sprig by sprig, before a single ovum is placed amongst the flower-buds. Up to 200 ova may be deposited by each female, therefore egg-laying can take a considerable time.
M. stellatarum is unique among sphingids of the region in overwintering as an adult, although north of the Alps very few survive. With the onset of cooler weather, individuals can be seen examining caves, rocky crags, empty houses, holes in trees or sheds, before selecting a suitable place for hibernation. This state of torpidity is not absolute, however, for warm days in December and January may bring some out to feed.”